Pursuing inspiring leadership
By Stephanie Viljoen
Group Executive: Human Capital & Citizenship, Capricorn Group.
Great leaders don’t set out to become a leader; they set out to make a difference. For them, it is always about serving others and reaching a set goal. Fundamentally, a leadership role can be compared to that of a superhero – someone who uses their power to do heroic deeds by being dedicated to a worthy goal for the benefit of all.
A leadership title, just like the name and costume of a superhero, comes with the territory but it doesn’t define the hero’s abilities; it merely makes them recognisable and distinguish them from others.
Within the vast scope of leadership and superhero roles, their capacities can be both rewarding and terrifying because at times these selfless beings need to transform from Clark Kent to Superman quicker than Flash, irrespective of their preferences or fears.
The emphasis is always on the goal and for the greater good of everyone they serve, rather than on themselves. Unfortunately, challenges come with the territory, as you soon realise that some of your employees might not like Superman, they want Hulk or Elastigirl, and because servanthood resides at the heart of leadership, the leader needs to comply and adapt. This is what defines inspirational leadership for me – the ability to fulfil multiple roles based on the uniqueness of each employee at a particular moment, born from an innate desire to flex yourself to create a dream for people and inspire them to achieve heights they didn’t think possible.
When you get this right, you will have employees that will form a cohesive unit and stand with you as if you have the superpower of all the Avengers combined. They will be engaged and committed and not let anything stand in the way of team success. Together they will not only unlock superpowers but also feel and act capable and confident. Inspirational leadership is, therefore, making the impossible possible and by doing this, allowing everyone to believe in their own superpower and helping them become the best version of themselves.
An expert in leadership, Warren Bennis said, “A business short on capital can borrow money, and one with poor location can move, but a business short on leadership has little chance of survival.” Leadership is a crucial factor for business. Every organisation needs great leaders to drive and create a direction that enables momentum for those around them in order to deliver against the strategy of the organisation. At Capricorn Group, we believe that leaders must influence, motivate, communicate and energise employees to ensure that they can bring their best to our organisation. We apply our vision to our leadership mantra – leaders are the catalysts of sustainable opportunities by being Connectors of Positive Change. This implies spotting opportunities, linking people to them and energising a system towards a common goal. We set out to challenge the status quo and inspire our people to think differently, out of the box and innovative.
The role of Human Capital is to design the value proposition needed to grow the leader each employee, including leaders. In my leadership role as Group Executive: Human Capital & Citizenship in Capricorn Group, I find that creating a conducive space for inspirational leadership growth is what distinguishes us from other corporate companies in the market. Our internal culture, The Capricorn Way, assigns our set of behaviours that guides us, and in doing so, we develop current and future leaders who can radically influence conversations and ignite visionary action for positive change. Continuous conversations and action orientation are required to ensure that we understand the heartbeat of each employee.
Acknowledging that this is a journey, we have embarked on several leadership initiatives, fashioning a culture of continuous learning.
We distinguish between ordinary leaders and great leaders on various points of which the output of a team is the distinct differentiator. Inspirational leaders don’t just naturally bring people together and motivate them to be extraordinary; they develop the leader within each of their team members. By not applying a one size fits all approach, they also act according to an applicable person and situation. I find the following key factors necessary for becoming a great leader:
• Reach for the impossible, grab opportunities where others see chaos and create order out of the disorder.
• Listen, be humble, care and don’t be afraid to show emotion.
• Watch over your team because they commit themselves to their leader.
• Acknowledge team and individual success and recognise the associated effort.
• Set a clear goal and strategy for the team and embrace a culture of failing and learning through coaching, training and supporting.
• Accountability is critical; taking up a role as an Avenger requires giving responsibility and trusting that they will execute their task like a superhero.
• Create a culture where multiple perspectives and diversity is celebrated.
• Help people connect their personal goals to business goals.
• Forget the ego or entitlement – acknowledge how you got to where you are and that it includes the effort of a team.
• Employees want to work for inspirational leaders, not because of the position they hold but because of who they are and what they stand for.
• Take the risks that others are afraid of, ‘walk the walk’, and charge just like a superhero would.
Personally, I believe that leadership is something inherent in everyone, and each of us has a leading role to play. Therefore, I seek to know my team and understand what makes them tick, what is their passion and their aspirations. Hand in hand with this goes the principle of treating everyone with an equal amount of respect.
My parents taught me to treat the janitor the same as the CEO, and this has formed the foundation of my guidance – grasping that all of us have equal roles to play in the success of the organisation, sometimes our roles are just different. One superhero in the Avengers is not more important than the other; ultimately, all of them must play their part to ensure success.